Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas in Cambodia

We have Christmas holiday from Dec 22 to January 7.  Taking advantage of this long break, I decided to travel to Cambodia and Thailand.  I flew into Siem Reap from Dumagute (via Manila) to meet up with a friend from Seattle.  There, I toured a fishing village on stilts among mangrove forests, rode tuk tuks around pub street, and explored one of the 7 worldly wonders in Angkor Wat.

Eating a Cambodian mango pancake for breakfast before touring the fishing village.

Along the walk you can find fried snakes, crickets, cockroaches, and dried snails.  There weren't too many buyers, but I did see a guy pop a sun-dried snail in his mouth while passing by.

Our tuk tuk driver taking us to the river boat tour.  It is common to hire a driver for the day, negotiating a price before hand and then paying when you reach your final destination.  You just have know how to negotiate a good price, otherwise the drivers bet on your ignorance and charge 3 times more than its value.  It was a long ride from our hotel to the tour, took about an hour each way.  At least there was a nice breeze and shade from the tuk tuk.  Here we are passing by rice fields.  

Bird-eye view from the elevated walkway overlooking the river.

Boat-eye view of the fishing village.

 A resident of the village hitching a ride home.

Tuk tuks at night, Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat, East Gate - there were less tourists at this gate, thanks to our guide we were able to avoid most crowded areas and get some of the best photo ops.

This monk actually wanted to take a picture with me first, so then I snagged a second photo for myself.

The moon lingers over the main West gate of Angkor Wat.  We were able to catch a sunset on Christmas Eve.
At one of the temples, trees have rooted themselves atop the old ruins.  It is quite impressive really how nature can reclaim their territory.

A very large, stone Hindu god greets us at one of the main entrances to Angkor Wat.  It is suggested practice for visitors to make a donation so they can light incense and a candle to pray and honor spiritual rituals.

Brightly orange draped monks can be spotted all around Angkor Wat.  Two are climbing the steep steps into the temple.
One of hundreds of the smiling Buddha sculptures seen at Angkor Wat.

The traveling trio - Jef, Anna, and Andre.  I met up with Jef and Andre (two Americans, Jef I know from Seattle and Andre I just met on the trip) in Siem Reap to tour around for a few days.  Then we all crossed the border together into Thailand where I separated from them for a few days while visiting relatives in Bangkok.  I met up with Jef and Andre at the end of my trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand to ring in the New Year properly.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Estudio Damgo - Week 7

The concrete slab has been poured and is 100% complete.  Remaining on schedule, we can go into the holiday break feeling confident about the progress made so far on the new daycare classroom.  This week, the back wall, made of hollow concrete blocks is being set with concrete grout mixture.  Slowly, one block at a time, the forms are extruding into a building.

Here an existing tree on site required us to form a notch out of the corner of the concrete footprint.  This solution may not have been the best choice, considering the building is still very close to the tree roots and drip line, which may cause the tree to eventually be crowded out.  The tree should be removed and replanted.

 Foreman Jay and Al layup the concrete block wall to the Comfort Room (CR) or toilet room.

 Rick, the driver, and Von assemble the metal bracket and re-bar frames for the column pedestals.

While we were working on site, the elementary school students and teachers were having a Christmas party gathering.  Some of the parents made "dirty" mango ice cream.  It's called "dirty" because it is homemade, and not store bought.  Here one of the parents is scooping me a good size serving of this fresh and tasty treat.  We will return to the site after the New Year, starting January 7, 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kasadya-an Festival: Enjoy Yourself!

One thing that I am learning about Filipino culture is they love to celebrate by parading, festivals, and fireworks displays.  As soon as I stepped off the airplane this past October, it was the start of festival season, which mostly means celebrating the upcoming Christmas holiday.  There are several different types of festivities, and last week, Foundation University celebrated the annual Kasadya-an, or "enjoy yourself" festival.  For an entire week, students shift their focus from school work to creating holiday displays and nativity scenes, sewing costumes, practicing dance routines for parades and competitions, and watching the Hara pageant for Miss Foundation University.  Needless to say, the school is transformed into a stage for all these occurring events.  After attending at least one event every night of the festival, I'm happy to say it has come to a close.  The students prioritize these sorts of events, and they put a lot of pride and care into their work.  I haven't seen the students work this hard in studio, until now for the Kasadya-an festival.  I'm wondering if there is a strategy to motivate the students like what I have witnessed this past week.  I may have to propose the student's perform a group dance routine for their next master planning presentation on the Banica River study.  We'll see.

Students craft a metal Christmas tree from recycled aluminum cans.  Each college department is required to create a festive display outside of their classroom buildings, where they are judged for a winning prize.

Detail of the finished metal Christmas tree for the department of architecture.

During the Kasadya-an festival, each college nominates a female student to run for the Hara pageant.  Shown are the nominees after they just performed their talent.

Also, each college puts on a very elaborate musical dance performance.  They are judged according to the best set design, lead dancer, choreography, and costumes.  These are some of the best performances to watch in Dumaguete for this level of competition.  I was certainly impressed with the costumes and the energy brought by the talented dancers!
Student performers giving it their all!

The photo was taken from above the green field on campus where student organizations and each college designs booths to represent their department.  The booths are suppose to creatively demonstrate what each department offers in terms of education.  I was one of the judges for this event.  The photo shows me and the other judges lined up in front of the crowd, waiting to announce the winners.  Photo by Paul Benzi Sebastian Florendo.

A Night with Eve Ensler

A night with Eve Ensler; writer/artist/feminist/activist and creator of the "Vagina Monologues" was the guest of honor at Arlene Delloso-Uypitching's Christmas party this past Tuesday.  We were all thrilled to share an evening with the spirited artists, feminists, and "witches" of Dumaguete!  The night was full of primal drumming and fire dancing.  After we danced our hearts out, we all gathered in a huge group to embrace hold the space allowing positive energy to flow between everyone!  It was quite unexpected, though I felt at home with the group honoring female wisdom and mother earth.  I just thank the universe for these moments, to share with like-minded and spirited individuals and being part of a whole where the practice of intention is happening all over the world!  I'm so blessed to be a part of it globally.  A great homecoming!  And of course all of my sisters were there dancing alongside me.  Happy holidays everyone!  :)

 Group photo taken by Hersley-Ven Casero.

Dancing with Eve Ensler and Hersley.  Eve wears the colorfully beaded, vulva wrap skirt, which was presented to her that evening by one of the guests.  Photo taken by RV.

Fire dancers show off for the crowd and announce Eve's arrival.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Estudio Damgo - Week 6

It's all about concrete these days.  The project continues to stay on schedule regardless of all the site access issues we have encountered the past weeks.  We were unable to access the site during week 5 because of the rushing water from typhoon Pablo, which flooded out the road to the school.  Now, a week later, we have mobilized the yellow concrete mixer, and bags of cement and gravel.  Our plans are to have the four inch slab-on-grade poured before we break for the holidays this December 21st.  We have some help from the Foundation U campus work crew (dressed in orange t-shirts) for the heavy lifting and experience on more complicated tasks.  Meanwhile, the students assist in cutting, bending, and tying re-bar which is now  completely laid out in an organized grid.

 Daryl uses the tamper to compact the backfill and prepping the foundation for the slab-on-grade.

Al uses a stable foot while cutting the re-bar.

Al and I switch off cutting the re-bar when our hands get tired.  I barely fit on the miniature chair provided by the school. 

Daryl and Efren take a moment while they mix the concrete grout for the hollow block wall.

One of the Foundation U crew workers uses a hook to tie the re-bar together.  He's very quick and natural using this tool.

Von holds up a sample of the square re-bar being formed for the columns.  Rhea and Leigh assist in bending the bar.

Al helps shovel the concrete into place.

Students tie re-bar into place.  Efren works on one of the column forms.

 Instructor Ray, Cheyenne, and Daryl cut tie wire on the sidelines.

The crew at work, mixing and pouring. 

 Three school girls quietly watch all the construction happening in their play yard.

One of the site roosters pokes around for worms.  After 1/4 of the slab was poured, we found a display of rooster tracks.  We'll see if there are any more when we return to the site the following week.  Not much we can do to keep them off the slab.  

The site at the end of week 6.  We are satisfied with the progress made today!  It is always a good feeling after a successful pour.  Looking forward to completing it before the holidays.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Typhoon Pablo

Last year, typhoon Sendong came surging in on December 17 causing immense amount of flooding and taking the lives of thousands in Dumaguete and the surrounding area.  Remembering this tragedy, we were all on high alert when warnings for typhoon Pablo were forecast to hit Dumaguete around 3pm Tuesday, December 4.  On Monday night, grocery stores were packed with people stocking up on the essentials for the next few days.  On Tuesday, the rains started early in the morning, all classes were canceled, and most hunkered down in their homes with family to wait out the storm.  The strength of Pablo was estimated to be about twice as strong as Sendong; however, the force of the storm may have lost some of its power as it first hit the most southern island of the Philippines, Mindanao.  Pablo managed to come in strong with high winds blowing over many trees, ripping off roofs, and shorting out power for the entire region.  Luckily, Foundation University has a backup generator, so my house was not without power for more than an hour.  The rest of the city is still without power, and it could remain this way for a few days.  Some flooding occurred along the rivers, but nothing compared to last year's flood.  For the most part, reports of damage seem to be mild and I haven't heard of any injuries.  Today, many are cleaning up the debris left behind from Pablo and classes resume as usual.  I am glad for this.  

It is Thursday, two days after the typhoon and Dumaguete is back to normal.  Early this morning I saw the street lights were glowing, reassuring me that the power was functioning again, at least in the main part of the city.  Today, like every Thursday, the students and I make the rocky climb up to the construction site.  But because of the storm, we were blocked by a river rushing over the road as we were making our way to the site.  Across the river, there were residents who also were impacted by this; but they managed to take their chances by pushing their motorbikes through the forceful water.  Not wanting to take any risks with the students, we decided to turn back around and have a design coordination day at the school.